Understanding how to teach our students. Adelphi's student body is the most diverse in the University's history. The "Understanding Our Students" session of the conference explored the needs and expectations of today's students and how Adelphi can meet them.
Adelphi’s student body is now the most diverse in the University’s history. It’s also part of a generation that faces the most uncertain career landscape in history, as technology transforms jobs and entire sectors of the economy.
How can Adelphi best prepare these students for success in school and in careers that may take unexpected turns?
Those questions were the topic of “Understanding Our Students,” one of the more than half dozen sessions of the Teaching and Learning Conference held on campus on January 30.
“The session was designed to facilitate open and honest discussions about who our students are, what their expectations are about the purpose of college, and how specifically the General Education program can help them become more flexible, ethical and creative thinkers,” said Peter West, Ph.D., associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and head of the General Education program. The General Education program includes the curricular requirements designed to help them develop academic skills and provide a broad and rich educational experience.
The response from faculty members seated at the session’s 10 tables exceeded expectations.
“What blew me away was how ready they were to have these discussions,” Dr. West said. “These are the people who are in the classrooms, labs and studios with our students. At every table, there were detailed and animated discussions.”
“At one table,” he continued, “people talked about the particular challenges of different pre-professional majors, especially transfer students who have to meet General Education requirements in only a year or two. At another table, people talked about ways to integrate the academic experience with the student-life experience both for commuting students and for those who live on campus. And at another, discussion centered on self-advocacy—finding ways to help students have a bit more grit and resilience, helping them use the campus resources available to them so they can articulate their interests, goals and needs.”
Conversation also centered on ways to introduce students from a variety of backgrounds to the diverse learning environment at Adelphi. One way the University does that is through first-year seminars that encourage students to talk to one another and work together on projects.
Adelphi also places an emphasis on introducing students—who come from varied educational backgrounds and who in some cases are the first in their family to attend college—to the nature of higher education and the many opportunities it presents.
“Students come from a high school with, say, six or seven departments, to a college that has many, many different majors,” Dr. West said. “How can they possibly know what all those different disciplines are about? How can you become passionate about a subject like anthropology if you don’t know it exists?”
The session underscored the need to provide every Adelphi student with equal opportunities for an enriching college experience while also recognizing the unique challenges that students face today.
“Students are facing a great deal of financial pressure—not only student debt, but also the pressure of working full time or part time and balancing that with their academic commitments,” Dr. West said. “Sometimes, those pressures can make it difficult for them to take a course just to learn something new, something that may not relate directly or obviously to their career goals. We want our students to let themselves be open to discovery, despite the pressure they may feel to get through college in four years. We’re trying to address that, and we’re keeping faculty involved in that conversation.”
That conversation will continue at a faculty town hall event in April. “We recognize the need to create a Gen Ed curriculum that supports and enriches the campus experiences of a wonderfully diverse student body,” Dr. West said.
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